Le Monde in limbo after journalists disavow chairman

23rd May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 23, 2007 (AFP) - France's Le Monde daily faced an uncertain future on Wednesday after chief executive Jean-Marie Colombani lost a bid for a new mandate after 13 years at the helm of the nation's newspaper of record.

PARIS, May 23, 2007 (AFP) - France's Le Monde daily faced an uncertain future on Wednesday after chief executive Jean-Marie Colombani lost a bid for a new mandate after 13 years at the helm of the nation's newspaper of record.

Colombani, 58, who had worked as a journalist for Le Monde since 1977 before becoming its chairman in 1994, lost a vote of confidence late Tuesday by journalists for a new six-year term.

He was the only candidate for the post of chairman of the management board.

Colombani had been criticised for failing to build up the newspaper and its affiliated publications, which suffered financial losses over the six past years and had a projected shortfall of 40 million euros (54 million dollars) for 2008.

His management style was also a bone of contention, with editorial staff accusing him of taking a go-it-alone approach.

A 2003 book published by journalists Pierre Pean and Philippe Cohen made waves for its portrayal of Colombani as a despot who engaged in under-handed dealings.

According to "The Hidden Side of Le Monde" (La Face Cachee du Monde), Colombani sought to evade taxes by declaring residency in Corsica and had secretly campaigned for Edouard Balladur in the 1995 presidential election, that was won by Jacques Chirac.

An influential editorialist, Colombani backed Socialist Segolene Royal in the presidential election that she lost to rightwinger Nicolas Sarkozy.

In an editorial published ahead of the runoff on May 6, Colombani had criticised Sarkozy over his tactic of appealing to the far right with a tough stance on immigration and crime.

It was under Colombani's leadership that the newspaper sought to diversify its holdings and become a budding media empire.

In 2003, Le Monde acquired the Publications de la Vie Catholique (PVC) group that included the Telerama entertainment weekly. It later expanded into the burgeoning free morning newspaper market with MatinPlus, which hauls in significant advertising revenue.

Other than the center-left daily that has been published since 1944, the press group controls the regional newspaper Midi-Libre, the newsweekly Courrier International and Le Monde Diplomatique, a spinoff of the newspaper.

The group also owns a stake in Le Temps, a struggling daily in Geneva.

But Le Monde's circulation had been steadily declining over the past seven years and hit 350,000 in 2006.

During secret balloting held on Tuesday, Colombani won 48.49 percent of the vote from Le Monde journalists, short of the 60 percent needed for a new mandate.

More than 61 percent of the editorial staff from the PVC group voted against him while journalists at the Midi Libre daily on Monday also rejected his candidacy by more than 52 percent.

An oversight committee grouping shareholders and representatives of the editorial staff is due to meet on Friday to hold a formal vote on Colombani's mandate.

Jean-Michel Dumay, president of the group representing editorial staff, said he would veto Colombani's appointment.

There was speculation that Pierre Jeantet, the number two of the Le Monde and a former head of the Sud-Ouest newspaper in Bordeaux, could be put forward as a candidate to succeed Colombani.


Copyright AFP

SUbject: French news

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